Despite heavy rains during January and February, fire crews with The Nature Conservancy of South Carolina achieved record results in performing low-intensity controlled burns in fire-dependent forestland during their 2010 season. Conservancy fire crews, both alone and assisting federal crews, conducted a total of 64 fires, treating 37,587 acres of forested habitat. The results are attributable in part to expanded capacity made possible by a two-year, $400,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The federal award enabled the Conservancy to hire a second “interagency” fire crew to assist USFS crews with prescribed fire work, primarily in the Francis Marion National Forest. The combined fire totals represent a five-fold increase over acres treated in 2009 by the Conservancy’s lone fire crew.
“The 2010 season was a banner year for us,” said Tom Dooley, state fire manager for the Conservancy’s South Carolina Field Office. “We participated in fires in all regions of the state ─ the Coastal Plain, the Sandhills, the Piedmont, and the Mountains. Fire is our primary and most important management and restoration tool for upland forests, particularly the longleaf pine community, which supports habitat for nearly 900 plant species and 29 federally threatened or endangered animal species, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.”
On June 28, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Charleston to host a listening session focusing on longleaf pine forest restoration. Part of President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative, the session culminated with the signing of a memorandum of agreement among federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service to work with state and private agencies as part of the Longleaf Pine Forest Restoration Initiative.
Southern longleaf pine forests once covered more than 90 million acres from Texas to Virginia. Only about 3 million acres of longleaf pine remain. Prescribed fire plays an important role in restoring longleaf pine because it prepares the soil for planting new longleaf seedlings, removes competitive hardwood species, and creates an open, sunny understory in which native grasses thrive.
The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its nearly 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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